How to Start a Non-Profit Organization in Missouri


Welcome to our Missouri nonprofit resource guide! This free guide will help you understand how to start your nonprofit in Missouri and become 501(c)(3) tax exempt. You will find step-by-step instructions and get answers to common questions like "what does it cost?" and "how many board members do I need?".


Option #1: Our Nonprofit Formation Service

We prepare and file your applications to set up your nonprofit. Starting at $1,395 plus filing fees.

  • Guaranteed 501(c)(3) approval. We have a 100% success rate in forming nonprofits of all types.
  • Save 100+ hours preparing government forms. Your specialist customizes each of your applications for you.
  • Start fundraising with confidence! Gain access to grants and donations exclusive to 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

Harbor Compliance makes starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit easy. When you choose Harbor Compliance, you work directly with an experienced specialist who gets to know your organization and helps you with every step. Unlike many of our competitors, we fully customize all the applications for your nonprofit. As you have questions, your specialist is available to provide guidance every step of the way. We guarantee approval of your 501(c)(3) application, which establishes a firm foundation for your success.

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Option #2: Do-It-Yourself

If you're starting out with little or no funds, gaining professional assistance is rarely an option. In that case, you may want to commit to researching the process and filing government applications on your own. This route is not for the faint of heart but is certainly achievable if you work diligently. The following step-by-step guide should help you as you undertake this process.

1 Confirm a New Nonprofit is Necessary

As you begin, take a moment to consider if you should start a new non-profit organization. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 31,000 nonprofit organizations in Missouri in 2013. Before deciding a new nonprofit is necessary...

  • Research if an organization already exists in your area that serves your cause. By working together you avoid diluting the effect of fundraising dollars and volunteer hours available in your geography.
  • Consider fiscal sponsorship, in which an umbrella 501(c) organization incubates your charitable nonprofit. Fiscal sponsors permit your cause to receive tax-deductible donations and often handle administrative paperwork.
2 Understand the Benefits of Incorporating

This guide focuses on starting a nonprofit corporation, the traditional nonprofit legal structure. This legal structure has a few key benefits. First and foremost, the nonprofit corporation limits the liability of the organization's officers and directors. Second, the nonprofit corporation is familiar to donors and grant makers. Lastly, nonprofit corporations meet a wide range of IRS eligibility requirements, in particular those relating to the 501(c)(3) application.

3 Check Name Availability

Check availability of your desired name. The legal name of the nonprofit corporation may not conflict with any other registered name.

Name Search:
Secretary of State database search
Name Reservation:
Optional
4 Recruit Incorporators and/or Initial Directors
  • Identify the incorporators. These individuals will execute the articles of incorporation and submit them to the state.
  • Recruit initial directors for your nonprofit board of directors. In Missouri, a minimum of three directors are required.
5 Appoint a Registered Agent

Identify the nonprofit’s Missouri registered agent. A registered agent is a legal appointee who is responsible for receiving legal notices for your nonprofit. Your registered agent must be physically located in Missouri and maintain an office that is open during regular business hours.

We provide a convenient service to act as your Missouri registered agent. As part of that service, our local office in Harrisonville, MO receives your legal documents and sends you notifications. You view your documents in your secure online account. Registered agent is included in our nonprofit formation service or you can sign up for this service separately.

Fast Facts

Below is an overview of the paperwork, cost, and time to start an Missouri nonprofit.

Paperwork
  • Form Corp-52: Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Apply for EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: Application for 501(c)(3) Exemption
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Missouri Online Business Registration or Form 2643: Missouri Tax Registration Application
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Missouri Charitable Organization - Initial Registration Statement

Cost
  • Incorporation: $25
  • 501(c): $400 or $850 IRS fee
  • Missouri Charitable Registration: $15

Time
  • Incorporation: ~1-7 business days
  • 501(c): ~3-6 months
6 File Missouri Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

File articles of incorporation to create your non-profit corporation.

Submit to:
Missouri Secretary of State
http://www.sos.mo.gov/
Form:
Form Corp-52: Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Corporation
Filing Method:
Mail or fax
Fee:
$25
Turnaround:
~4-7 business days by mail or ~1-3 days by fax
Law:
Missouri Revised Statutes - Chapter 355: Nonprofit Corporation Law
Notes:
  • The IRS requires specific language in the articles of incorporation to qualify for 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption. Refer to IRS Pub 557 for guidance and sample language.
  • You must submit original signatures.
7 Establish Organization Records

Your filed articles of incorporation are the first document for your nonprofit corporate records. Your corporation will generate many other official records such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and your EIN.

Office supplies intended for a nonprofit corporation will help you stay organized and save time. Optionally, get a company record book, seal, and document templates.

Draft bylaws which is the governing document for the nonprofit. You will review and ratify the bylaws at your first board of directors meeting.

The Board should create and adopt a conflict of interest policy. This document is submitted to the IRS at the time they apply for 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

8 Hold Organizational Meeting of the Directors

Hold the first meeting of the board of directors. At this meeting, the nonprofit should approve the bylaws, elect additional directors, appoint officers, and approve initial resolutions such as opening a company bank account. Keep minutes of this meeting.

9 Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your nonprofit must obtain an EIN regardless of whether it will hire employees.

Submit to:
Internal Revenue Service
http://www.irs.gov/
Form:
IRS Form SS-4
Guidance:
IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN
Filing Method:
Mail, phone, fax, or apply online with the IRS
Fee:
$0
Turnaround:
Immediately online
Notes:
The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.
10 Get Missouri State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

Register for state tax id(s) and accounts.

Submit to:
Missouri Department of Revenue
http://dor.mo.gov/
Form:
Missouri Online Business Registration system or Form 2643: Missouri Tax Registration Application
Filing Method:
Online or by mail
Fee:
$0
Notes:
Get your EIN from the IRS before registering.

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11 Apply for 501(c)

Applying for 501(c) tax exemption is often the most complex and time-consuming steps in setting up a nonprofit. It is also one of the most important, as obtaining a tax exemption is what is enables an organization to successfully raise funds, apply for grants, be exempt from IRS income tax, and enjoy a variety of other benefits exclusively available to nonprofits.

501(c) is the chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that regulates nonprofit organizations. Most nonprofits are 501(c)(3)s, including charities and foundations. There are a few forms used to apply for federal tax exemption. 501(c)(3) nonprofits apply using Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ. Not all organizations however are eligible to file the streamlined Form 1023-EZ. Other types of nonprofits, including 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s, apply using Form 1024.

Seeking the help of a professional with this step is common. Choosing the right form to file is just one consideration. A great deal of expertise, time, and preparation goes into creating a successful application. The IRS estimates over 100 hours are spent on researching and preparing the application. If you're looking for professional assistance, check out our formation services to help you with your 501(c) application and the rest of the process. Our nonprofit specialists will help you from start to finish.

Submit to:
Internal Revenue Service
http://www.irs.gov/
Form:
IRS Form 1023, IRS Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Form 1024
Instructions:
IRS Instructions for Form 1023, IRS Instructions for Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Instructions for Form 1024
Guidance:
IRS Pub 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization
Filing Method:
Mail
Fee:
$400 or $850
Turnaround:
1023-EZ average: <1 month. 1023 average: 3-6 months.

The IRS will return a Determination Letter which officially recognized your exemption.

12 Apply for Missouri Tax Exemption(s)

Missouri nonprofits that file IRS Form 990 are exempt from Missouri corporation income tax.

More Information:
Missouri Department of Revenue
http://dor.mo.gov/

To obtain an exemption from paying Missouri sales tax on purchases:

Submit to:
Missouri Department of Revenue
http://dor.mo.gov/
Form:
Form 1746: Missouri Sales Tax Exemption Application
Filing Method:
Mail
Fee:
$0
13 Register for Charitable Solicitation / Fundraising

Before soliciting any funds or hiring solicitors, you must complete your charitable organization registration in each state where you will raise funds.

If you need to register in many states, review our guide “Charitable Solicitation Registration using the Unified Registration Statement (URS)”. 39 states accept the URS, including Missouri.

Most charitable organizations are required by Missouri statute to register with the Attorney General's Office before soliciting for donations in Missouri. If you have received an IRS Determination Letter stating your recognition under 501(c), you are exempt from registration. Even so, you may wish to have your organization added to the Attorney General's Check a Charity database. To file only in Missouri:

Submit to:
Missouri Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
http://ago.mo.gov/registrations/x
Form:
Missouri Charitable Organization - Initial Registration Statement
Filing Method:
Mail
Fee:
$15
Exemptions:
AG guidance on exemptions
Notes:
Must be notarized. If your organization received an IRS Determination Letter, do not use this registration - simply contact the AG about how to add your organization to their "Check a Charity" database.
14 Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.

Nonprofits who wish to conduct bingo, raffles, and other charitable games must obtain a license.

Submit to:
Missouri Gaming Commission
http://mgc.dps.mo.gov/
Form:
Forms for Charitable Gaming
Filing Method:
Mail
Fee:
varies
Law:
Missouri Charitable Gaming Law
Notes:
Use the application for the games desired.
* Ongoing filings

You must file federal and state tax returns. You must also file:

  • Missouri nonprofit corporations must file an annual report.
    Submit to:
    Missouri Secretary of State
    http://www.sos.mo.gov/
    Form:
    File online
    Filing Method:
    Online. To file by paper look up entity by charter nummber and print form.
    Fee:
    $15 paper or $10 online
    Due:
    August 31
    Reminder:
    Postcard is sent to registered agent.
    Notes:
    Minimum three directors must be listed.
  • Missouri nonprofits that solicit must renew annually.
    Submit to:
    Missouri Attorney General
    Consumer Protection Division
    http://ago.mo.gov/registrations/x
    Missouri Charitable Organization - Annual Report Form
    Filing Method:
    Mail
    Fee:
    $15
    Due:
    75 days after end of fiscal year.
    Notes:
    Must be notarized.
  • Missouri nonprofits conducting charitable games must submit a Quarterly Report to the Missouri Gaming Commission.
    Submit to:
    Missouri Gaming Commission
    http://mgc.dps.mo.gov/
    Form:
    Quarterly Report
  • Missouri nonprofits should renew sales tax exemption 90 days prior to expiration.

Tax-Exempt in 2 Weeks!

Download the case study of how our client, Reform It Now, obtained 501(c)(3) tax exemption in only two weeks using IRS Form 1023-EZ!

  • "Harbor Compliance has done an outstanding, amazing and utterly brilliant job helping Reform It Now organize and obtain its 501(c)(3) status, quickly.
        In point of fact, Harbor Compliance had our 501(c)(3) determination letter in our hands 8 calendar days before your competitor had scheduled our initial consultation. Yes, that's right. They booked the consultation 30 days after we paid their fee, and you had us together with a consultant in less than a week (mostly because I had to get ready).
        From filing the 1023EZ on August 1st to receipt of the determination letter on August 14th is, in my humble opinion, simply breathtaking and I dare say, ONLY Harbor Compliance could have achieved that."
    - Dr. Bob A.

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This page was last fact-checked September 7, 2013.